John and I just returned from San Diego where we spoke at the 13th Annual CAHM Forum (Community Alliance for Healthy Minds https://www.cahmsd.org/ ). Our dear friends, Rex & Connie Kennemer, began CAHM after their 25-yr-old son, Todd, died by suicide. The theme this year was “The Power of Your Story” and we were among the presenters who shared our story of living with our son and his decade-long battle with opioid addiction. We then led a break-out group where we answered questions and discussed the nature of addiction and treatment.
Some may wonder what an addiction story has to do with a forum on mental health. The answer is simple: everything. Now that we have available data covering decades, the connection between individuals who struggle with the entire spectrum of mental health issues and those who are struggling with any addiction co-exist in almost half of those populations.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), “45% of people with addiction have a co-occurring mental health disorder. Individuals who frequently abuse drugs or alcohol are likely to develop a co-occurring behavioral or mental health disorder. While it is widely accepted that a mental health disorder can induce a substance addiction – and vice versa – researchers are uncovering what causes both conditions to occur simultaneously.”
And, alcohol and drugs are often used to self-medicate the symptoms of mental health problems. People often abuse alcohol or drugs to ease the symptoms of an undiagnosed mental disorder, to cope with difficult emotions, or to temporarily change their mood. Unfortunately, abusing substances causes side effects and in the long run often worsens the symptoms they initially helped to relieve.
Alcohol and drug abuse can increase the underlying risk for mental disorders. Mental disorders are caused by a complex interplay of genetics, the environment, and other outside factors. If you are at risk for a mental disorder, abusing alcohol or illegal or prescription drugs may push you over the edge. There is evidence, for example, that certain abusers of marijuana have an increased risk of psychosis while those who abuse opioid painkillers are at greater risk for depression.
Some alarming statistics on mental health and addiction:
Depression: One in 10 adults in the US report suffering from depression. Many try to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. This often makes the problem worse because the crash after the high can be devastating.
ADHD: abuse substances as a way to cope with their symptoms. Many are prescribed stimulants, which can be habit-forming and lead to a toxic pattern of substance abuse.
PTSD: post-traumatic stress disorder causes the brain to produce less endorphins than a healthy brain, making them more likely to turn toward alcohol or drugs to feel happy.
GAD: generalized anxiety disorder, the most common mental condition in the U.S., affects 18 percent of the adult population. People who suffer from GAD are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol to manage their symptoms.
Bi-Polar: About half of people with bipolar disorder also struggle with addiction.
BPD: borderline personality disorder. Over two-thirds of people with BPD abuse substances at some point in their lives .
Schizophrenia: The rate of substance abuse is 50 percent higher among individuals with schizophrenia than among the general population. The most
commonly abused legal and illegal drugs among schizophrenic patients as alcohol, nicotine, cocaine, and marijuana.
OCD: Obsessive compulsive disorder and substance use together are found in over 25% of people who seek treatment for OCD.
Eating disorders: 4% of the population has one of the major eating disorders, and of those people, up to 40% are more likely to have substance use disorder.
If you or a loved one are struggling with any aspect of mental health the best step forward is to seek professional help. Contact the SAMHSA’s National Hotline 1-800-662-HELP (4357), for confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations.
(The information in my blog is gleaned from research articles and reports that I am passing along as accurately as possible.)
NIH: Ten percent of US adults have drug use disorder
OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER
SAMHSA 2018 Survey on Drug use and Health